Donald Owen Clarke GC

Donald Owen Clarke (05/03/1923 – 08/09/1942) was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his actions on 08-09/08/1942 off coast of Trinidad while a crewman of the tanker San Emiliano.

“On the night of the 8th-9th August 1942, Clarke was serving on board the tanker “San Emiliano” when it was hit by two torpedoes and her cargo of petroleum burst into flames, turning the ship into an inferno. Clarke was trapped in his cabin but fought his way out on deck and boarded the only lifeboat that was still intact. It was full of burnt and wounded men, and he himself was badly burnt on the face, hands and legs. When the boat was lowered onto the sea, it started to drift back towards the flaming tanker and it was evident that it would require a tremendous effort to pull it out of danger. Most of the occupants, however, were so badly injured that they were unable to help. Despite his injuries, Clarke took an oar and pulled heartily for 2 hours without complaint, and only when the boat was well clear did he collapse and then his hands had to be cut away from the oar as the burnt flesh had stuck to it. He died a few hours later of his injuries.”

Clarke’s body was lost at sea off the coast of Trinidad, and he is commemorated on the Merchant Navy Memorial at Tower Hill in London.


© DRW 2016-2018. Information from Victoriacrossonline

John Bythesea VC. CB. CIE.

John Bythesea  (15/06/1827 – 18/05/1906) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in 1854 during the Crimean War

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 21971, Page: 653, reads:

“John Bythesea, Commander.

On the 9th of August, 1854, having ascertained that an Aide-de-Camp of the Emperor of Russia had landed on the Island of Wardo, in charge of a mail and despatches for the Russian General, Commander Bythesea obtained permission for himself and William Johnstone, a stoker, to proceed on shore with the view to intercept them. Being disguised and well armed, they concealed themselves till the night of the 12th, when the mail-bags were landed, close to the spot where they lay secreted in the bushes. The mails were accompanied by a military escort, which passed close to them, and which, .is soon as it was ascertained that the road was clear, took its departure. Availing themselves of this opportunity, Commodore Bythesea and the stoker, attacked the five men in charge of the mail, took three of them prisoners, and brought them in their own boat and brought them on board the “Arrogant”.  The despatches were carried to General Baraguay d’Hilliers, who expressed himself in the highest terms of approval.”

(Despatch from Captain Yelverton, inclosed in a Letter from Vice-Admiral Sir C. Napier, of 31st January, 1856.)”

On 14 September 1871 he commissioned the battleship HMS Lord Clyde at Plymouth and took her out to the Mediterranean Fleet. In March 1872, HMS Lord Clyde, ran aground  on the island of Pantellaria, and it proved very difficult to free her as she was badly damaged by the incident. Upon examination in Plymouth it was found that her hull was in a poor condition as a result of unseasoned wood being used in her construction. She was never commissioned again and was sold for scrap in 1875.    

The court-martial in April 1872 severely reprimanded Bythesea and the Navigating Officer, who were dismissed from their ship and neither of them were ever employed at sea again. He was retired from the Navy on 5 August 1877. 

He is buried in Abbey Cemetery, Bath.

Rear Admiral John Bythesea VC. Bath Cemetery

Rear Admiral John Bythesea VC.

Headstone inscription

Abbey Cemetery, Bath.

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